How Churches Can Get The Answer They Want By Changing The Question They Asked

William Lawrence, Dean and Professor of American Church History at the Perkins School of Theology within Southern Methodist University, presents the argument that “denominational loyalty has gone the way of brand name loyalty in the market place,” as pertaining to the increasing number of Americans who change denominations or who classify themselves as “nones,” people who do not associate with a religion. Dean Lawrence points to the fact that when a Methodist family moves to a new city they may not seek a Methodist church, but rather seek a church based on their “self-perceived needs, desires, wants, and lifestyles.” If people loyalty remains, then this trend can be reversed. Professor Philip Kolter, acclaimed as “the world’s foremost expert on the strategic practice on marketing,” defines four patterns of loyalty behavior. First, there are the “Hardcore Loyalists,” who consume only one brand (or denomination). Second, there are the “Softcore Loyalists,” who consume two or three brands. Next, there the “Shifting Loyalists,” whose loyalty moves from one brand to another. Finally, there are the “Shifters,” who have no loyalty and constantly look for bargains or variation. As long as people remain in one of the first three categories (Hardcore, Softcore, or Shifting Loyalists) then this trend can be reversed. It is when people fall into the last group, Shifters, that there is a true problem.

From a corporate stand point this trend can viewed as a “share of wallet” dilemma. It is not advantageous to capture 100% of consumer’s consumption, of a consumer with minimal consumption. Rather, it is much more advantageous to capture 50%, or a share, of a consumer with heavy consumption, or service usage. Thus, as long as people remain loyal, even to a small degree, there is still hope.

By viewing the trend from the “share of wallet” methodology, the question now becomes, “How can churches increase their share of consumption?”

William Lawrence’s original posting can be found at http://religionblog.dallasnews.com/archives/2009/09/why-are-fewer-americans-identi.html


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